Entrepreneurs who are traveling with several thousand dollars worth of business electronics are also enabling thieves. Nearly 600,000 laptops were stolen in 2001, a 53 percent increase from the previous year, according to Safeware, a firm that sells insurance to protect PCs, PDAs and pe-ripherals.
Policies to protect your laptop from theft can be bought for annual premiums starting at $69. Other policies for busi-nesses and homeowners will also cover property that is stolen while traveling. Likewise, some warranties will cover repair or replacement caused by damage, although warranties will probably exclude circuit boards fried by power surges and laptops damaged after being dropped. That's important because accidental damage is more than twice as likely to occur as theft, according to Safeware's annual survey.
Other than reading the fine print on your insurance policy and warranties, the best thing to do is avoid losing your gear in the first place. Safeware president Donald F. Strejeck says you should place your laptop in an inconspicuous carrying bag before leaving on a business trip. "A lot of computer bags say IBM or Dell on them," Strejeck says. "Use something that's not so obvious."
Your first stop is probably the most dangerous.Strejeck says airports are likely places to lose your laptop. "If you're using a laptop in airports, keep an eye on it," he says. Keep your guard up after you arrive in your hotel. "Never leave it in plain sight," Strejeck says. "Hide it in a drawer or put it in the safe."
Anti-theft security devices such as locking cables are inexpensive ways to physically secure a laptop to a desk or other hefty object. You can also purchase and install software that sends a signal to a tracking service when a laptop is used to access the Internet or connected to a phone line. If the laptop has been stolen, the monitoring center can determine its location using the phone number or Internet address it is using, helping authorities recover the missing equipment.
In one sense, the mobile business toolkit appears to have come full circle, from being something few other businesspeople even recognize to being a popular target for common thieves. But it is probably more accurate to say that technology for mobile entrepreneurs has just begun an ascent to unforeseeable levels of sophistication, power and convenience. We may someday be able to carry one tiny, long-lived device that gives us easy and instant command over all the information and communication we need. Or we may just continue to accumulate more and more pieces of equipment. One thing is sure: If the technology exists for you to be more effective as a mobile entrepreneur, somebody else will have it before long, and then you'll be expected to as well.